Information has never been so readily available. With technology providing more tools to talk, text, type and tweet than ever before, you wouldn’t think communicating about benefits would be an obstacle.
But if anything, the abundance of tools can hinder your ability to effectively work with clients to build effective benefits programs — and enroll employees.
Meanwhile, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and changes in employer-paid benefits plans are leaving employees with more gaps in coverage than ever before. Insurance carriers are seeing an uptick in voluntary benefits products — critical illness, life, disability, accident and cancer insurance — that help fill in gaps in this coverage.
It’s a great opportunity for you to showcase your experience and expertise with your clients, but only if you can communicate about the options effectively with them, and their employees. Here are five tips to remember so you can succeed with your clients this enrollment season.
1. Keep it simple.
Efforts to keep costs down and under control have left business leaders across the country trying to do more with less. This includes human resource departments, where professionals are expected to manage benefits products constantly increasing in complexity in an ever-decreasing amount of time.
You can help decision makers save time — and often money — by providing benefits that are guaranteed issue, include a minimal number of required forms and allow employees to customize their benefits.
2. Employees need education.
HR professionals who lack time and resources can easily leave a benefits education gap in the minds of the employees. While 81 percent of large companies think it’s important for employees to fully understand their benefits, estimates from ADP find that only 58 percent of employees understand their benefits well. Your role should be equal parts teacher and sales when you meet with business owners and decision makers.
3. One size doesn’t fit anyone.
America’s businesses now include as many as four generations, and that requires you to employ a variety of tools to communicate and educate. Employees can find most forms of enrollment support to be helpful, including personalized pre-enrollment information, one-on-one sessions, group meetings, online decision-making tools and ongoing education after enrollment.
You need to be able to communicate effectively about benefits with multiple generations over a variety of high-tech and high-touch platforms. Make sure your benefits provider can speak old-school and new-school.
4. Three weeks can change your life.
Work with your clients to improve employee education by ensuring they have a variety of communications tools and enough time to review and understand them. The number of employers providing an enrollment period of at least three weeks declined from 2009 (55 percent of employers) to 2012 (47 percent).
But the extra time can make a huge difference, according to the 2014 Colonial Life Employee Education and Enrollment survey. It found employees were more satisfied with their benefits education and overall benefits package with more time. Only 7 percent of employees who were given less than two weeks to decide rated their benefits education as excellent or very good, and only 8 percent gave strong ratings to their benefits package. But giving employees three or more weeks raised those ratings to 57 percent for education and 53 percent for overall benefits.
5. Make time for one-on-ones.
While many of today’s younger workers want to be able to shop for and purchase products online, that doesn’t mean personal benefits communication doesn’t remain vital. According to a 2013 Colonial Life-Harris Poll, 98 percent of employees felt their personal counseling sessions were important. And 97 percent say it improved or significantly improved their understanding of their benefits.
Younger employees are more likely to prefer using electronic tools, according to the 2014 Colonial Life Employee Education and Enrollment survey, but they also lag behind older workers when it comes to understanding and valuing their benefits. That means you shouldn’t rely on technology to educate younger employees in the workplace. Perhaps adding a personal one-on-one component would be helpful.
By remembering these tips during this enrollment season, and taking advantage of the education and expertise you already have, you can enjoy a rewarding enrollment season.
Rich Williams is the senior vice president for growth markets at Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company. He can be contacted at 803-678-6440 or RWilliams@ColonialLife.com.